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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Outgoing (05/05/11)

TITLE: Broken Glass
By Michael Joshua


I leaned back in my chair so I could see over the cubicle wall. 8:41. He's late.

Then I heard it.

Squeak, squeak.

The sound of the wheels on the mail cart brought the chatter in the office to silence.

Squeak, squeak.

I leaned out into the walkway he was two cubicles away.

Squeak, squeak.

The rattle of interoffice envelopes grew closer.

Squeak, squeak.

"How ya doin' today, ma'am?"

"Just fine, Melvin. How are you?"

"Well, ma'am, I'm just incredible. Know what I mean?"

As his question hung in the air, he dropped eleven full interoffice envelopes on my desk.

"Are you sure these are all mine?"

A laugh was all I heard in response just before the squeak, squeak as he rolled away.

I uncoiled the strings on the envelopes and let each one empty out onto my desk in a pile. All reply cards for the new flat-top stoves that we manufactured two streets over. For some reason, the public just couldn't get used to the glass flat-top design. Breakage was the ongoing problem.

I sorted the reply cards into bins:

"turned on the wrong burner"
"thought the burner was off"
"empty pot left on a hot burner"
"dropped something on the glass-top"

I called out to my staff. We went through the same process each day.

"Pick your slip for today. There are a lot, so do the best you can to get through them."

Each person pulled a slip from the basket. Each slip had been previously assigned to one of the bins full of reply cards. The staff members then returned the slip to my desk as they took the bin full of their day's work and headed back to their workstations.

The final bin left on my desk would be mine for the day. As I clipped my headset on, I knew that my employees were doing the same thing at their desks. Our job was to call each responder and talk to them about the issues they experienced with their stove top and make sure that a replacement had been installed quickly by a service technician. Most calls were very nice, grateful for the fast service. But, every now and then, we had a very unhappy customer on the other end of the line.

As customer service representatives, our goal was to keep our customer-base happy. And we did a bang-up job at it. I made sure that management up the ladder knew just how well my staff members performed their jobs.

As the day wrapped up, my employees brought their reply cards and a report of the day's calls back to my office. They had managed to get about 75% of the work out.

"Great job, everyone."

As they walked away, I heard it again. 4:30 Right on schedule.

Squeak, squeak.

"Any outgoing, ma'am?"

"You bet, Melvin. I'm giving you back almost as much as you gave me this morning."

I placed the binders and cards in the bottom of his cart. I'll never see those cards again.

I sighed.

Squeak, squeak.

Just like my forgiven sins are at the ocean floor, I will never see those reply cards again. But, odds are, there might be more tomorrow. Broken, repaired as good as new. I have a lot in common with my job.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Caitlin Dea05/12/11
Interesting piece. I liked the aspect on life in an office cubicle. Very creative!

Good Job :)
Joanne Sher 05/15/11
Oh - love the surprise tie-in at the end. Definitely wasn't expecting it. Creative.
Sharlyn Guthrie05/15/11
Nice object lesson! I had no clue where you were going with this, but you wrapped it up beautifully.
Kathleen Langridge05/19/11
I loved the word picture created by your "squeak squeak." It was a surprise ending. Only one thing I would change 'at the ocean floor' to on the ocean floor. It caused me to have to read the sentence twice. Great piece, though.